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Q&A with Navy coach Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson became Navy's 36th head football coach on Dec. 9, 2001. Johnson returns to Annapolis after five successful seasons at Georgia Southern, where he compiled a 62-10 record while leading the Eagles to two straight NCAA Division I-AA titles.

Johnson was an offensive coordinator on coach Charlie Weatherbie's staff at Navy for the 1995 and 1996 seasons.

BaltimoreSun.com:Why did you leave a successful program at Georgia Southern and take the head coaching job here?

Paul Johnson:It was just a tremendous challenge and opportunity to coach outstanding young men. Having coached here before, it was such a rewarding experience to help those young men win football games and get to a bowl game [1996 Aloha Bowl]. That is something I never will forget.

BaltimoreSun.com:Was it a hard transition to make between the two programs?

Paul Johnson:I'm not looking at this as a rebuilding effort. I don't know which games we're going to win or lose, and I'm not looking at this as a four-year step. I don't think that's fair to the guys who are seniors.

BaltimoreSun.com:What are your priorities before the season opener at Southern Methodist University on Aug. 31?

Paul Johnson:We're going to go out and practice. We've got a tightknit group that made a lot of progress in the spring. We didn't get the whole system in - offensively and defensively - but we're going to get done and refine it.

I think the key to winning football games is don't lose them. I know that sounds funny, but if you cut down on mistakes, turnovers and missed assignments, that gives you a chance to win.

BaltimoreSun.com:You seem to be focused on special teams, making the point that you want your 11 best guys on the field. Why the emphasis?

Paul Johnson:Special teams is one-third of the game, maybe more, and I want our best guys out there and our 11 fastest guys out there. Everywhere I've coached I've seen some teams that should have won a lot more games, but special teams cost them.

BaltimoreSun.com:As far as expectations this year, you purposely didn't say, "We're going to be .500" or "We should win 'x' amount of games." Why?

Paul Johnson:I've never been a guy to promise this thing and that thing. We work hard and take seriously the opportunity to represent the Academy on the football field.

I don't know if you can ever really know how many games or which games you're going to win. For example, if I say we're going to go 7-4, someone will ask me, "Well, which four are you going to lose?" To me, that's ludicrous. This is why we play the games on Saturday.

We're going to see the team get better and if that happens, then the winning and losing takes care of itself.

BaltimoreSun.com:What type of offense can fans expect to see?

Paul Johnson:We're going to run the triple option. It's pretty much the same thing we did back in 1996.

BaltimoreSun.com:How has recruiting gone?

Paul Johnson:We've got a good recruiting class at NAPS and we'll see how they do this year.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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